Recomputing 2010 College Football Quarterback Efficiency Ratings

The traditional quarterback rating is not a perfect measure. The NFL formula is a messy, convoluted statistic that some argue places too much emphasis on completion percentages and touchdowns and not enough emphasis on yardage gained. Worse yet, the measure does not take into account yards gained (or lost) on the ground, masking the effectiveness of running QBs. The NCAA quarterback efficiency rating is more straightforward than its NFL counterpart, but it is subject to the same criticisms about completion percentage, touchdowns, and running yards. The NCAA formula is laid out below. For the NFL formula go here (warning, it is one nasty, ugly, intimidating formula).

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Utah State sports economist David Berri devised a more intuitive formula that addresses some of the common criticisms lobbed at the passer efficiency rating. Berri calls his measure the QB Score and it looks like this:

QB Score = Total Yards - (3 x Plays) - (50 x Turnovers)

The traditional passer efficiency rating tends to take on a "more is better" approach: if players throw a bunch of TDs and hundreds of yards, they can get away with a fairly high turnover rate. Berri's measure has a different philosophy: if you generate yards and avoid turnovers, you will be rewarded. As we will see, comparing the two is an interesting endeavor.

In his book The Wages of Wins, Berri and several other economists break down several other player efficiency stats in a variety of sports. If you're interested in this topic, it's a worthwhile read.

Anyway, I was intrigued by his QB Score and decided to implement it on quarterbacks from the 2010 college football season. No matter how you crunch the numbers, Kellen Moore and Cam Newton were the two best quarterbacks in college football this year. After those two, things get more interesting when we compare QB score to passing efficiency (who else had never heard of Chandler Harnish?).

Player QB Score Passing Efficiency
1. Kellen Moore, Boise State 1707 182.6
2. Cam Newton, Auburn 1645 182
3. Colin Kaepernick, Nevada
1432 150.5
4. Chandler Harnish, Northern Illinois 1329 157.8
5. Andrew Luck, Stanford 1310 170.2

After the jump I run the QB score for every quarterback in every conference and compare those score to traditional passing efficiency ratings. The results may surprise you...

Before we look at each conference, let's get a better intuition about how this measure differs from traditional efficiency. As you may have noticed from the top five in QB score, you can build up a decent QB score without having a spectacular passing efficiency rating. Those players simply take care of the ball and generate plenty of positive yardage. You can however, have a decent passing efficiency rating coupled with an awful QB score (and we'll see plenty of those). Those players tend to have turnover issues. Nothing hurts the QB score more than turnovers. Players who turn the ball over at high rates can have okay efficiency ratings, but they tend to have awful QB scores (see Jacory Harris).

Comparing the two scores with words and formulas is nice, but pictures really help tell the story. Let's look at a plot of QB scores plotted against passer efficiency ratings. The SBN-autosized image is a bit tough to read, so go here for a massive 1920x963 version. (Note: I only calculated QB Scores for quarterbacks with 75 or more passes).

Efficiencysmall_medium

The correlation between the two measures is strong, but not that strong (.690).

If we break it up into quadrants, we can see which types of QBs fall into which sections. Naturally, QBs want to be in the upper right and avoid the lower left. But whether it is preferable to be in the upper left or lower right is debatable. The QB score favors those in the lower right, while the passer efficiency rating favors those in the upper left.

Efficiencyquadrants_medium


Now, let's look at each conference starting with our own Pac-10:

Pac-10
Player QB Score Efficiency Rating
Andrew Luck, Stanford 1310 170.2
Darron Thomas, Oregon 655 151.0
Brock Osweiler, ASU 480 133.4
Matt Scott, Arizona 227 150.9
Nick Foles, Arizona 175 140.9
Jake Locker, UW -38 124.2
Kevin Riley, Cal -168 140.7
Matt Barkley, USC -259 141.2
Jeff Tuel, WSU -324 133.3
Richard Brehaut, UCLA -500 110.2
Ryan Katz, OSU -534 126.4
Brock Mansion, Cal -574 86.0
Kevin Prince, UCLA -682 78.9
Steven Threet, ASU -1032 133.4

I'm not surprised to see Luck and Thomas at the top, but Brock Osweiler? He only saw substantial playing time in the final two games, but he's a perfect example of a guy with a solid QB Score and a so-so passing efficiency rating: he may not have a great completion percentage (56.9%), but he generates a lot of yardage (324 per game in his two starts) and didn't have a single turnover.

Another surprise is Matt Barkley. He had the third-highest efficiency rating, but he finished in the bottom half because he does not generate that much yardage and he throws a fair number of interceptions. He's much improved over last year, but he still has work to do.

If Kevin Riley had a functioning O-line, he probably could have finished in the top-5.

Even with a functioning O-line, Brock Mansion probably wouldn't finish in the top-5.

Here's a plot you can actually read because it has only the Pac-10 QBs. Kevin Riley and Matt Barkley are sitting on top of each other.

Pac10_medium

Now, for the rest of the conferences:

ACC
Player QB Score Efficiency Rating
Tyrod Taylor, Virginia Tech 1269 154.8
TJ Yates, North Carolina 488 145.5
Danny O'Brien, Maryland 86 134.5
EJ Manuel, Florida St 29 153.3
Josh Nesbitt, Georgia Tech -2 105.4
Russell Wilson, NC State -13 127.5
Christian Ponder, Florida State -173 135.7
Stephen Morris, Miami -570 124.0
Kyle Parker, Clemson -573 117.2
Dave Shinskie, Boston College -631 106.7
Marc Verica, Virginia -662 122.8
Tanner Price, Wake Forest -679 106.8
Chase Rettig, Boston College -848 105.5
Sean Renfree, Duke -1011 120.7
Jacory Harris, Miami -1327 116.6

Overall, these numbers are pretty bad. Except for Tyrod Taylor and TJ Yates, there was not a whole lot of good quarterbacking going on in the ACC last year.

Jacory Harris has the dubious honor of being the worst (by far) quarterback in the BCS conferences. He is an interception machine and that killed his QB score. A year ago this statement would have been inconceivable, but the 2011 QB battle at Miami should be fierce.

Acc_medium

Big 10
Player QB Score Efficiency Rating
Dan Persa, Northwestern 1102 159.0
Denard Robinson, Michigan 981 149.6
Ricky Stanzi, Iowa 919 157.6
Scott Tolzien, Wisconsin 641 165.9
Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State 502 157.9
Ben Chappell, Indiana 369 132.5
Adam Weber, Minnesota 225 129.9
Nathan Scheelhaase, Illinois 146 132.0
Kirk Cousins, Michigan State 55 150.7
Tate Forcier, Michigan -270 130.2
Rob Henry, Purdue -305 112.4
Robert Bolden, Penn State -370 118.5
Robert Marve, Purdue -419 113.0
Matthew McGloin, Penn State -480 128.5
Sean Robinson, Purdue -916 70.2

The Big Televen enjoyed a wealth of good quarterbacks last season. If he didn't throw so many interceptions, Denard Robinson would have taken the top spot.

I'm going to guess it was a pretty crappy year at Purdue.

Bigten_medium

Big 12
Player QB Score Efficiency Rating
Robert Griffin, Baylor 1127 144.2
Landry Jones, Oklahoma 786 146.3
Brandon Weeden, Ok St 675 154.1
Taylor Potts, Texas Tech 478 141.1
Taylor Martinez, Nebraska 472 138.8
Blaine Gabbert, Missouri 306 127.0
Jerome Tiller, Iowa State 57 88.8
Carson Coffman, KSU 48 143.1
Cody Hawkins, Colorado 45 125.6
Ryan Tannehill, Texas A&M -41 137
Jerrod Johnson, Texas A&M -331 125.4
Tyler Hansen, Colorado -402 129.5
Quinn Meacham, Kansas -580 108.6
Austen Arnaud, Iowa State -689 116.2
Jordan Webb, Kansas -728 106.8
Garrett Gilbert, Texas -1049 111.0

Robert Griffin? I wasn't expecting that. It helps show that with the QB Score, more does not necessarily mean better. Landry Jones' 4718 yards and 38 TDs were not enough to secure the top spot.

LOLTEXAS, -1049

Big12_medium

Big East
Player QB Score Efficiency Rating
Geno Smith, West Virginia 496 121.6
Adam Froman, Louisville 346 136.5
Tino Sunseri, Pitt 133 137.0
Cody Endres, UConn -59 129.4
Justin Burkey, Louisville -102 130.5
Ryan Nassib, Syracuse -177 124.2
Bobby Eveld, South Florida -255 107.6
Tom Savage, Rutgers -280 105.3
Zach Fraser, UConn -331 99.7
Zach Collaros, Cincinnati -508 137.5
Chas Dodd, Rutgers -521 126.8
BJ Daniels, South Florida -1077 120.3

Like the ACC, the Big East also had some pretty bad quarterbacking this season. It must be something in the water out there on the East Coast.

How South Florida won 8 games this year is beyond my comprehension.

Bigeast_medium

SEC
Player QB Score Efficiency Rating
Cam Newton, Auburn 1645 182.0
Greg McElroy, Alabama 1106 169.0
Aaron Murray, Georgia 729 154.5
Ryan Mallett, Arkansas 630 163.7
Mike Hartline, Kentucky 482 146.4
Chris Relf, Mississippi St 360 141.0
Jarrett Lee, LSU 80 119.9
Matt Simms, Tennessee -118 129.3
Stephen Garcia, South Carolina -181 148.7
Larry Smith, Vanderbilt -296 94.3
Tyler Bray, Tennessee -486 142.7
Jared Funk, Vanderbilt -581 102.0
Jeremiah Masoli, Ole Miss -618 121.1
Jordan Jefferson, LSU -635 114.7
Spencer Keith, Kentucky -689 111.3
John Brantley, Florida -693 116.4

The SEC was stacked with good QBs last year.

Except at Florida.

Sec_medium

Now, onto the non-BCS conferences and a bunch of QBs no one has ever heard of (except for the independents and a few exceptions from the MWC/WAC).

Conference USA
Player QB Score Efficiency Rating
GJ Kinne, Tulsa 857 144.3
Austin Davis, Southern Miss 790 134.1
Jeffrey Godfrey, Central Florida 355 154.3
Kyle Padron, Southern Methodist 136 137.4
Bryan Ellis, Alabama-Birmingham -139 130.5
Ryan Griffin, Tulane -208 144.7
Dominique Davis, ECU -356 134.0
Trevor Vittatoe, UTEP -482 122.4
David Piland, Houston -535 137.4
Nick Fanuzzi, Rice -574 128.8
Ryan Williams, Memphis -613 124.9
Brian Anderson, Marshall -1095 117.7

Cusa_medium

Independents
Player QB Score Efficiency Rating
Ricky Dobbs, Navy 346 160.8
Trent Steelman, Army 276 129.1
Dayne Crist, Notre Dame 19 129.3
Tommy Rees, Notre Dame -624 132.0

Army and Navy did pretty well this year. The same cannot be said of Notre Dame.

Ind_medium

Mid-American Conference
Player QB Score Efficiency Rating
Chandler Harnish, Northern Illinois 1329 157.8
Austin Boucher, Miami-Ohio 121 132.6
Alex Carder, Western Michigan 59 140.6
Terrance Owens, Toledo 34 143.8
Chester Stewart, Temple -384 108.1
Mike Gerardi, Temple -460 140.0
Aaron Pankratz, Bowling Green -513 106.3
Austin Dantin, Toledo -539 124.7
Zac Dysert, Miami-Ohio -633 129.2
Alex Gillett, Eastern Michigan -775 122.7
Alex Zordich, Buffalo -790 70.5
Ryan Radcliff, Central Michigan -887 125.8
Matt Schilz, Bowling Green -1304 109.6
Boo Jackson, Ohio -1439 136.2
Patrick Nicely, Akron -1513 95.3
Jerry Davis, Buffalo -1593 104
Keith Wanning, Ball State -2531 111.3

Chandler Harnish quietly put together a spectacular season with 2530 yards, 8.66 yards per attempt, 64.7% completion, 25 TDs, and only 5 interceptions. He also ran for 836 yards and 5 TDs. Look for Harnish to have a spectacular senior season in 2011.

It looks like Buffalo has not exactly adjusted well to the post-Zach Maynard era.

Keith Wanning managed to top Jacory Harris and secure the nation's worst QB Score. He threw for 1373 yards, 5.84 ypa, 54.5%, 14TDs and 14 interceptions. Ouch.

Mac_medium

Mountain West Conference
Player QB Score Efficiency Rating
Andy Dalton, TCU 1186 166.5
Tim Jefferson, Air Force 414 141.9
Ryan Lindley, San Diego St 379 149.4
Terrance Cain, Utah 125 141.5
Jordan Wynn, Utah -128 139.9
Austyn Carta-Samuels, Wyoming -213 123.3
Stump Godfrey, New Mexico -222 117.5
Jake Heaps, BYU -385 116.2
Omar Clayton, UNLV -478 118.6
Tarean Austin, New Mexico -497 84.5
BR Holbrook, UNM -689 92.1
Pete Thomas, Colorado State -809 124.5

Andy Dalton towered above the rest of the MWC. TCU is going to miss him next year.

Mwc_medium

Sun Belt
Player QB Score Efficiency Rating
Ryan Aplin, Arkansas St 123 133.3
Riley Dodge, North Texas 100 134.1
Chris Masson, Louisiana-Monroe -15 116.8
Kawayn Jakes, Western Kentucky -171 106.9
Corey Robinson, Troy -283 137.9
Logan Kilgore, Middle Tennessee St -459 119.1
Kolton Browning, Louisiana-Monroe -510 128
Blaine Gautier, Louisiana-Lafayette -568 100.1
Jeff Van Camp, Florida Atlantic -737 128.0
Wesley Carroll, Florida International -757 128.4
Dwight Dasher, Middle Tennessee St -1786 103.2

I didn't even know which conference most of these schools were in.

Sunbelt_medium

Western Athletic Conference
Player QB Score Efficiency Rating
Kellen Moore, Boise St 1707 182.6
Colin Kaepernick, Nevada 1432 150.5
Matt Christian, New Mexico St 390 106.2
Ryan Colburn, Fresno St 177 144.9
Ross Jenkins, Louisiana Tech -19 126.8
Bryant Moniz, Hawaii -330 159.1
Colby Cameron, Lousiana Tech -592 94.5
Andrew Manley, New Mexico St -785 86.8
Nathan Enderle, Idaho -894 123.4
Diondren Borel, Utah State -912 109.7
Jordan La Secla, San Jose St -929 125.8

Last and certainly not least is Kellen Moore, the nation's most efficient QB no matter how you spin the numbers. Colin Kaepernick received a nice boost form the QB score for running wild on most of his opponents.

Wac_medium

And there you have it, the QB Scores for 155 of the nation's quarterbacks. In many cases players had a decent efficiency rating paired with a sub-par QB Score. Rarer were those with a decent QB Score and a mediocre efficiency rating. Want to defend on rating and critique the other? Did your favorite QB do better or worse than you expected? Let us know in the comments.

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